Tuesday June 2, 2015 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM CDT
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Branson Convention Center 
200 S Sycamore St
Branson, MO 65616

Driving Directions 


Ronna Haxby 
Ozarks Water Watch 


Thank you to our Partners / Sponsors






Connecting Families and Nature 


Please join us, June 2nd at the Branson Convention Center for “Connecting Families and Nature.” We’ll explore the synergistic link between people and nature, and share opportunities and thoughts on how to restore the nature connection in our communities.

Many of us may remember playing in the woods by the little stream where we’d spend hours building that stick fort, or catching minnows and crawdads for fun. These types of activities may not have impressed us at the time, but most would agree, they had a positive impact which has stayed with us into adulthood. It is part of a heritage that we cherish and will convey, hopefully to the equally treasuring hands, of our heirs.

However, most of us are also aware that many young people today often have little or no connection to the natural world. We are plugged into technology almost constantly for play, school and, as adults, for work.  This is creating a variety of physical, mental and emotional challenges in our communities.  Through our “Connecting Families and Nature” conference we aim to facilitate positive movement in the Ozarks toward helping families spend more time outside and enjoying the our abundant natural places.

Come be inspired, challenged and informed at this important event to envision and unite for action to connect families and the natural world. Exchange ideas with an exciting line-up of community leaders, educators and  professionals, and learn how others are successfully:

  • improving the health and wellbeing of our children through environmental education and outdoor recreation.
  • inspiring and developing a future generation of environmentally conscious leaders.
  • creating innovative programs that engage families in our outstanding State Parks. 

Remember, today’s children are tomorrow’s conservationists.

Registration fee $35

Registration includes bestselling author Richard Louv's book: The Nature Principle, Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, a $15.00 value

Richard also authored the international bestseller Last Child in the Woods and coined the phrase "Nature Deficit Disorder"


9:00       Introduction                                                                                                  David Casaletto, Ozarks Water Watch

 9:15       Welcome Remarks                                                                                                                                                          Sarah Parker Pauley, Director of Missouri Department of Natural Resources

 9:30       Kids to Parks: Engaging Youth in the Outdoors                                                                                                 Bill Bryan, Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Parks                                                                  Of current adult campers, 64 percent participated in outdoor activities when they were between the ages of 13 to 17, compared to just 28 percent of non-campers. This goes to show how important outdoor recreation is during childhood. Find out more about what Missouri State Parks is doing to get more kids to parks and, in turn, encourage a lifelong love of the outdoors.  

10:00     Break

 10:15     Behind the Benefits of Outdoor Recreation: What Research Shows                                                             Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, University of Missouri                                                                                          Intuitively, we all know that being in nature is great for kids and adults alike. But you may be surprised by some of the ways research supports the physical and mental benefits of outdoor recreation. This presentation will reveal some recent studies that demonstrate how parks and the natural environment can boost community-wide well-being and quality of life.

 10:45     The 3 Ps of Programming: Planning, Promotion, and Persistence                                                                   Jan Weaver, Missouri Environmental Education Association                                                                           While passion about a topic is an important ingredient, it is not sufficient by itself to carry out a successful and sustainable program. A program also needs thorough planning, effective promotion, and persistence if it is to have a long-term impact. For the novice, this presentation will provide a framework for getting started. For experienced program developers, this presentation will provide some useful tools for taking a program to the next level. 

 11:15     Q & A – Discussion

11:45     Lunch - with fabulous dining entertainment by The Lennon Cathcart Trio

 12:40     Water Warrior Awards

 12:50     Outdoor Days                                                                                                                                                              Jessica Hayes, Bass Pro Shops                                                                                                                                      Get excited about Bass Pro’s huge “Outdoor Days” event in Branson, MO September 10th – 13th, 2015

1:00       Environmental Education                                                                                                                                          Janice Schnake Greene, Missouri State University                                                                                                   This presentation will give an overview of a variety of education programs that are available for teachers, students, and families.  Janice will discuss the GLADE Academy (Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems) and several national environmental education programs that can be used with families and in classrooms or other education settings.

1:30       Building Girls of Courage, Confidence and Character with Outdoor Adventures                                     Dawn Prafiska, Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas Girl Scouts                                                       Learn how the Girl Scouts Diamonds are building girls of courage, confidence and character by facilitating outdoor adventures in nature at their 8 beautiful properties. Camping is a great way for girls to explore leadership, build skills, and develop a deep appreciation for nature. Through Girl Scouting, girls see the earth as their home. Whether they're learning about endangered wildlife, developing creative recycling projects, or working towards earned grade-level awards, girls focus on care, conservation, and responsibility. They ensure the safety of our planet for future generations.

2:00       Paddling the Current to Care for the Future                                                                                                       Courtney Thomas, Beaver Watershed Alliance                                                                                                           The Beaver Watershed Alliance’s Outdoor Watershed Education & Recreation Program pairs outdoor recreation with experiential learning and stewardship activities in the Beaver Lake Watershed. Learn how they have been able to connect participants with the local natural environment and encourage them to care for the watershed through their actions and decisions. The program is in its third year and has engaged over 1,000 participants in canoeing trips, trail maintenance outings, and stream and lake cleanups!

2:30       Q & A – Discussion

2:45       Ice Cream Social

3:15       Facilitated Discussion – Making the connection…Where do we go from here?

5:00       Adjourn

 Click HERE to read Speaker Bios